Article 370 hearing: SG quotes Sardar Patel in SC, exposes Nehru; Sibal and others irritate

Article 370 hearing: SG quotes Sardar Patel in SC, exposes Nehru; Sibal and others irritate


The Supreme Court of India is holding a continued hearing to give the final verdict on Article 370 of the constitution of India. One such hearing session was held on Thursday, 24th August 2023. In this hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who was representing the government of India quoted certain remarks by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and the stand taken by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

As Nehru was getting exposed by the arguments being presented by SG Tushar Mehta, petitioner lawyer Kapil Sibal objected to it and created disturbances in the hearing. In response to this, the CJI instructed him not to impede in the middle of the government’s argument. Kapil Sibal and other arguing lawyers also challenged the books quoted by Tushar Mehta to which the solicitor general replied saying that anything can be cited in the courtroom. The constitutional bench of the Supreme Court hearing this matter consists of Justice BR Gavai, Justice Surya Kant, Justice SK Kaul, and Justice Sanjeev Khanna. The bench is headed by CJI DY Chandrachud.

In his argument, SG Tushar Mehta said, “Please note this milord that after acceptance of 370, V Shankar expressed his disappointment at the passing of the special provision. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel summoned him to lunch. The description of the said meeting in ‘My Reminiscences of Sardar Patel’ by Vishnu Shankar is as under. V Shankar is a principal secretary, who was secretary of Jammu and Kashmir and became the cabinet secretary. Please note this milord. One by one. Beautiful words.” After this, SG Tushar Mehta quoted from the book.

As soon as I was seated, Sardar spoke. “So you are annoyed with me for having accepted the Gopalaswami formula?” I queried that if he felt that way, why did he not indicate his mind earlier?

SG Tushar Mehta said, “Milord, see the maturity of the man and the statesmanship.” Then he continued reading from the book.

He (Patel) said, “I was deeply concerned at the situation. Gopalaswami had acted under Pandit Ji’s advice. If Jawaharlal were here, we could have had it out of him. But how could I do so with Gopalaswami who was only acting under orders? If I did, people would have said that I was taking revenge on his confidence when he was away. Gopalaswami had appealed to me for help. How could I have let him down in the absence of his chief.”

SG Tushar Mehta said, “Since my prime minister is not present, I will not let him down, since my prime minister argues outside – out of the country.” Then he continued reading from the book.

I then asked why he had let down the country and other states whose constituent assemblies had been scrapped in accordance with his advice and policy. He considered the validity of the criticism but pointed out the delicate international position of the state and the issue of its relationship with India, we felt that the present situation had to be tied over without giving the eventuality and this had been done under the formula.

SG Tushar Mehta said, “Please note this milord. This only Sardar could have spoken. And now milord, it has proved to be prophetic.” Then he continued reading from the book.

He (Patel) said that after all neither Sheikh Abdulla nor Gopalaswami was permanent. The future would depend on the strength and guts of the Indian government and if we cannot have confidence in our strength, we do not deserve to exist as a nation.

The opposition lawyer accompanying Kapil Sibal objected to this book quoted by SG Tushar Mehta. CJI DY Chandrachud told the petitioner’s lawyer to let the SG continue his arguments. Justice BR Gavai said, “When your side argued, at that time there was no interruption by either the attorney or the solicitor.”

SG Tushar Mehta said, “Whenever any of them provided any documents or additional judgments, we never objected.”

CJI DY Chandrachud said, “These are well-known books. Whenever we are deciding on a matter, we give preference to primary sources and primary matter such as the instruments of accession. These are also other such documents that he is relying on to explain it.”

SG Tushar Mehta said, “Neither of us was not even born when all of this happened. I did not object to even Noorani being quoted here.”

It is notable that the opposition lawyers accompanying Kapil Sibal raised the objection as soon as they knew that the book quoted by SG Tushar Mehta exposes the errors committed by Jawaharlal Nehru and that the step of the Modi government to abrogate Article 370 and Annexure 35a was a step that showed the strength and guts Sardar Patel was talking about.

After this, the opposition counsel opposed saying that the book quoted by SG Tushar Mehta is not even on the list of the documents mentioned in the dates list of the court. SG Tushar Mehta said that he would send a copy of the book to the petitioner’s lawyers.

The opposition lawyer said, “That is not the point. I am saying that it can just keep getting enlarged. We are saying that please stick to the records.”

Replying to this, SG Tushar Mehta said, “If AG Noorani can be read, even a newspaper can be read. I am sorry but I am saying this with seriousness. I have read AG Noorani. It is a one-sided book. But we didn’t object to it.”

CJI DY Chandrachud taking control of the argument said, “No, no. Mr. Solicitor General. You do not have to go this far.” Then addressing the opposition lawyers he said, “All that he (SG Mehta) is saying just indicates that it’s not like any conclusive evidence or report material. This is his way of demonstrating that there were different points of view and different perspectives that were present at that time.”

Kapil Sibal countered it saying, “We may have historic perspectives. Even at that time, one side was expressing one view and the other side was strongly opposed to it. Ultimately we have to interpret the provision in the constitution. How did this all come about? That is what we all are discussing.”

To this, the court said, “Then you were also referring to some documents. These documents give us some air of the background and different perspectives to the background.”

Concluding the heated debate, SG Tushar Mehta said, “Several new facts were stated. I didn’t object because I did not want to trivialise the dialogue.”

A 5-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, and Surya Kant is hearing a batch of petitions challenging the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution which conferred special status on the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir. More than 20 petitions are pending before the Supreme Court challenging the Centre’s decision to abrogate Article 370. The hearing in the given case began on August 2. So far, 10 hearings have been completed in the month of August. The CJI stated that the Court would only examine if there is a violation of the constitution and would not reassess the basis of the government’s decision to abrogate Article 370 from the former state of Jammu and Kashmir. The next hearing in this case will be on 28 August 2023.


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